Decades ago, psychedelics like “magic mushrooms” were viewed as the preserve of the counterculture crowd who would be spotted chomping away on woody stems and dry caps. Today, a new picture of laboratory-produced synthetic psilocybin pills is emerging and it could soon send the consumption mode of yesteryears into oblivion. How did we get here?
In 1963, Albert Hoffman, the Swiss scientist who synthesized LSD, received a small package containing 100 grams of magic mushrooms. This package was a gift from Maria Sabina, a Mazateca healer who hailed from Southern Mexico.
Hoffman immediately went to work in his lab, and the outcome of his long hours was the isolation of psilocybin. Thereafter, the researcher synthesized this compound and made pills out of it. Soon after, he embarked on a journey to Mexico and he delivered his synthetic psilocybin pills to Maria Sabina.
When Sabina took the pills, she informed Hoffman, who had since left, that the pills indeed contained the spirit of the magic mushrooms. And that was how synthetic psilocybin was born.
The synthetic pills made by Hoffman made scientists realize that it was possible for users to experience the psychedelic effects of consuming magic mushrooms by taking synthetic pills with the same active ingredient in the mushrooms.
This breakthrough is at the core of all the ongoing research into psychedelics. Johns Hopkins University and Imperial College London are some of the centers where this type of research is currently ongoing. So, why not just grow a whole lot of magic mushrooms?
While psilocybin mushrooms can be grown easily and inexpensively, the scientific community prefers synthetic versions since the lab-made psilocybin is of consistent quality and potency, is free from contaminants and the dosage can be controlled.
In contrast, magic mushrooms are prone to lots of variables (weather and soil condition, for example) and this makes them to be less likely to meet the stringent regulatory controls of the FDA and other agencies.
However, synthetic psilocybin will come at a steep price. Every time a naturally-occurring products attracts commercial interest, costs rise as entities strive to get patents which promise the developer and manufacturer a return on their investment. Hopefully, psychedelic companies like Pure Extracts Corp. could come up with ways to mass-produce this compound at an affordable cost to the final consumer.
The other issue has to do with the spiritual and cultural roots of some psychedelic substances, such as magic mushrooms. Some people cannot imagine having to buy a product that is so intricately tied to their religious or cultural heritage. However, this concern is likely to fade as it becomes clearer that psychedelics are medicinal products which one can buy from a pharmacy as long as a licensed medical practitioner has prescribed them. As the legendary Bob Dylan sang, the times they are a changin’!
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